Lots of Trouble Learning to Jump
 
 

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Lots of Trouble Learning to Jump

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  • Im learning how to jump on horseback
  • Learning to jump a horse

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    01-01-2013, 11:33 PM
  #1
Foal
Lots of Trouble Learning to Jump

Hello!

I've been riding for about a year now and I'm just beginning to learn how to go over fences. To date, I've been able to jump a 2'3" (on a pony) but I feel like the entire instance of jumping is very hit or miss for me. Sometimes we have good/decent days and other times it's awful. I suppose I should say that I stayed on when we jumped 2'3" and it wasn't a horrible experience for either of us, but it wasn't a jump I could probably repeat if you asked me to do it right now.
I read obsessively and everything I can find, and while I can understand needing a secure leg and things I can feel out myself, I find that learning to jump (and in particular knowing distances and when things are going to happen) is something I can't get my mind around.

When I jump I tend to tense and lean forward on my toes and get left behind the motion instead of going over with it. Mostly this is because I don't know when the horse is actually going to jump. I wonder if this is because several of the horses where I ride tend to be lazy, and because we are learning to jump by trotting over small cross rails and verticals they tend not to actually jump but simply to take a big stride. I get left behind because I don't know when the lift is supposed to happen. Then my trainer might jump on the horse and go over the jumps a few times at a canter so the horse realizes "oh, I need to JUMP!" and then when I get back on he's jumping but I'm tense and bouncing around because the horse is more likely to run toward it because I'm inexperienced and at the end of it I feel like I'm successfully clinging to the tack more than actually learning the motion.

When the horse is being lazy sometimes my trainer will crack a lunge whip when the horse is about to take off, but that has a tendency to cause weird and awkward jumps. I know riding is largely muscle memory, and I don't know what I'm supposed to be memorizing!

When I ride a horse that has more energy I tend to tense up because I don't know when the horse will actually lift off and so I end up on my toes again. Is there something I can feel or look out for when the takeoff is supposed to happen? I think the entire motion would go a lot smoother if I had even an inkling of when that might be. Sometimes my trainer says to just keep my heels down and ride the motion but that's when I get left behind the most, because I'm not in two-point when I'm supposed to be.

And I won't even go into my releases (or lack thereof half the time; I tend to grab mane on the approach every time because I do not want to catch anyone in the mouth)... that is something that suffers.

When I managed the 2'3" we jumped a combination. It was a small vertical and then the higher vertical. We cantered out of the first vertical so I had some idea of when the second jump might happen, but I find it silly that I can't jump a standalone object and have to ride into a chute to get over something marginally well.

It's discouraging because I feel like I'll never learn to jump because of it. When I was learning the gaits it was easy to eventually relax, because I am asking for the transitions and there were few surprises there. This is a horrible guessing game for me that has me wondering if it's me or the horse when we don't end lessons on a good note like everyone else.

Any help would be greatly appreciated! You guys have helped me improve my riding so much this past year. :)
     
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    01-02-2013, 06:37 PM
  #2
Banned
Is your avatar photo you? And the pony on which you jumped 2'3"?

It's a lovely photo, and a nice demonstration of good elementary technique.

I'm going to ask you a personal question - do you tend to be a perfectionist in parts of your life?

Because I keep looking at the photo, and reading your description and thinking "Hmmmmmm. Either that photo is of someone else, of her on absolutely her best day ever that she's never been able to reproduce, or she's obssessing a tad."

If you were a student of mine, I might nag you to have a more generous release or put colored tape in the pony's mane to give you a marker for where I want you hands to be. Other than that, I'd probably be doing a lot of what you tell me you're already doing - working on position, jumping low single fences from a trot, and starting gymnastics. I will also tell you that you'd be my star student if you looked like that photo after a year of lessons. Jumpin 2'3" after a year of lessons is no small accomplishment, most of my students were still trotting crossrails and maybe a little gymnastic and had not graduated to a line or a course of crossrails at this point in time.

Alos, that pony is *really* jumping and rounding his back, not just stepping over, or pulling his landing gear up and out of the way.

So I think what you're describing is why we call it "learning to jump" rather than "just go ahead and jump."

I suspect your instructor already knows this about you, but you'd probably do well to learn some relaxation and breathing techniques to help with the anticipation (sorry, I read you post to mean you're tense because of anticipation and wanting to do well, rather than physical fear), or doing silly things like singing or reciting nursery rhymes as a distraction. The other thing that helps with anticipation tension is simple repetition - you just need to take more lessons and do it more often til it seems less like a big deal.

If you have any other photos, I'd be happy to critique, or if you want any other specific help, I'd be happy to help with that as well.
     
    01-02-2013, 07:34 PM
  #3
Trained
Just one question. When you are jumping, does your instructor tell you to look at the jump or past it?
     
    01-02-2013, 08:10 PM
  #4
Foal
Quote:
Originally Posted by maura    
Is your avatar photo you? And the pony on which you jumped 2'3"?

It's a lovely photo, and a nice demonstration of good elementary technique.

I'm going to ask you a personal question - do you tend to be a perfectionist in parts of your life?

Because I keep looking at the photo, and reading your description and thinking "Hmmmmmm. Either that photo is of someone else, of her on absolutely her best day ever that she's never been able to reproduce, or she's obssessing a tad."

If you were a student of mine, I might nag you to have a more generous release or put colored tape in the pony's mane to give you a marker for where I want you hands to be. Other than that, I'd probably be doing a lot of what you tell me you're already doing - working on position, jumping low single fences from a trot, and starting gymnastics. I will also tell you that you'd be my star student if you looked like that photo after a year of lessons. Jumpin 2'3" after a year of lessons is no small accomplishment, most of my students were still trotting crossrails and maybe a little gymnastic and had not graduated to a line or a course of crossrails at this point in time.

Alos, that pony is *really* jumping and rounding his back, not just stepping over, or pulling his landing gear up and out of the way.

So I think what you're describing is why we call it "learning to jump" rather than "just go ahead and jump."

I suspect your instructor already knows this about you, but you'd probably do well to learn some relaxation and breathing techniques to help with the anticipation (sorry, I read you post to mean you're tense because of anticipation and wanting to do well, rather than physical fear), or doing silly things like singing or reciting nursery rhymes as a distraction. The other thing that helps with anticipation tension is simple repetition - you just need to take more lessons and do it more often til it seems less like a big deal.

If you have any other photos, I'd be happy to critique, or if you want any other specific help, I'd be happy to help with that as well.
My picture is of me, yes. We were jumping smaller then and it was a different horse than the one where we did 2'3". But thank you so much for everything you said! You're right in saying I am a bit of a perfectionist, so I appreciate the reality check! It's not a physical fear at all but a tension in anticipation of not knowing when we're actually going to pop up and over. I tense because I'm not sure exactly when I'm supposed to be in two-point so I'm not left behind.

It's also funny that you think that picture's actually not bad. That was actually one of the lessons where I had gotten on that particular horse for the first time and she's both a mare and very forward compared to the other lesson horses and I was nervous with her. I'm not sure what I was thinking at the time, but maybe not focusing so much on the details of myself helped. I guess I'll know this weekend, as I'm due to ride her again for my lesson.

Quote:
Originally Posted by MyBoyPuck
Just one question. When you are jumping, does your instructor tell you to look at the jump or past it?
I'm usually told to look ahead and focus on something outside the ring, like the trees.
     
    01-02-2013, 08:19 PM
  #5
Foal
I get left behind sometimes when we jump in my lessons, mostly because the horse I lease has a huge stride and loves to jump. What my instructor has done with me is a lot of flatwork in two point. She wants me to be able to steer and control pace while in two point. She's also had me count strides before the jump. I have to shout "3, 2, 1" with 1 being the last stride before takeoff. If I do it right, then right after I shout "1" my horse is taking off and I move just a little forward to meet him (i.e. Two point). The counting also has the side benefit of making me wait and helping me make my horse wait too (he really loves to pick the big spots to jump!).

Adrianne
     
    01-03-2013, 08:30 PM
  #6
Trained
Quote:
I'm usually told to look ahead and focus on something outside the ring, like the trees.
Well, while it never helps to learn to jump on horses that take a ton of leg, your instructor is doing you no favors by having you look at trees. You're not jumping the trees, you're jumping the jump. When you drive a car, or ride a bike, do you look where you are going or gaze off into the distance?

I don't know if you can jump when not in a lesson, or if you even ride between lessons, but if you can, try this exercise. Place a very small vertical on a long side. (If you're not allowed to jump, use a ground pole) Pick up a canter on a large circle and look at the fence until it goes out of sight between your horse's ears. You should be either in a full seat or light seat on the circle. Once the jump disappears between your horse's ears, that's when you get into 2 point, close your lower legs around the horse and ask him to jump.

Even if you can't ride outside of lessons, do try looking at the jump on approach. Don't look down with your head or anything, just use your eyes to let your horse know where he's going. I don't understand why it works so well, but it does. When you're looking at the fence, that info seems to trickle down to the horse and you usually get the correct distance every time.

Hope this helps. I wish your trainer had better horses for you to learn to jump on. It's so much fun on the right horse.
gypsygirl likes this.
     
    01-03-2013, 08:46 PM
  #7
Foal
Quote:
Even if you can't ride outside of lessons, do try looking at the jump on approach. Don't look down with your head or anything, just use your eyes to let your horse know where he's going. I don't understand why it works so well, but it does. When you're looking at the fence, that info seems to trickle down to the horse and you usually get the correct distance every time.
I would be very careful with this exercise. It might be okay with some horses, but I have ridden some that will refuse if you so much as glance at the jump. I like jumping a line because I have something (the next jump) to look at while going over the first, and then I just have to remember to look up over the second.

I also have a hard time jumping. For me it's more of a real fear than just tensing my body in anticipation, though. I get to a point where I'm so panicked that all I can feel is the speed and I feel as though I have no control. What really helps me is to have my instructor set up a single small cross rail or vertical and have me trot over it. As soon as I'm trotting straight at the jump she tells me to get in my two-point and close my eyes. It's very relaxing if done right, and it really helps you feel the strides up to the jump and the moment of take off. You do have to make sure the jump is high enough that your horse is actually jumping though, and not just trotting it.
     
    01-03-2013, 08:46 PM
  #8
Foal
Quote:
Originally Posted by MyBoyPuck    
Well, while it never helps to learn to jump on horses that take a ton of leg, your instructor is doing you no favors by having you look at trees. You're not jumping the trees, you're jumping the jump. When you drive a car, or ride a bike, do you look where you are going or gaze off into the distance?

I don't know if you can jump when not in a lesson, or if you even ride between lessons, but if you can, try this exercise. Place a very small vertical on a long side. (If you're not allowed to jump, use a ground pole) Pick up a canter on a large circle and look at the fence until it goes out of sight between your horse's ears. You should be either in a full seat or light seat on the circle. Once the jump disappears between your horse's ears, that's when you get into 2 point, close your lower legs around the horse and ask him to jump.

Even if you can't ride outside of lessons, do try looking at the jump on approach. Don't look down with your head or anything, just use your eyes to let your horse know where he's going. I don't understand why it works so well, but it does. When you're looking at the fence, that info seems to trickle down to the horse and you usually get the correct distance every time.

Hope this helps. I wish your trainer had better horses for you to learn to jump on. It's so much fun on the right horse.
I will definitely give this a try! I admit I was hoping there might be some sort of "trick" (though that's not a very good word, I think), or at least a strategy to get even a small idea of distance and it's something I never thought of. It's funny that something that seems so obvious when it's explained never occurred to me. :3
     
    01-03-2013, 09:22 PM
  #9
Trained
I recently watched a clinic with an upper level jumper rider. He had one girl in the clinic who couldn't get the distance no matter what. As soon as he had her do this exercise, she nailed it every single time. I tried it the next day and had the same result. The second I tried looking off in the distance, it all fell apart.

I get that your instructor is probably trying to instill in you to sit tall, shoulders back, look up, etc, but something about watching where you are going gives you a sudden confidence because you now have some power of control. The horse senses this and jumps more confidently as well. Some of these school horses stop or slow down only because they realize that person up there isn't really 100% about jumping that jump. Once they know you're good to go, so are they.
gypsygirl likes this.
     
    01-05-2013, 07:45 PM
  #10
Foal
I just wanted to thank everyone that posted in this thread! Your replies all helped so much! I had an awesome lesson today and I know it had everything to do with reading this thread this week.

@MyBoyPuck: Your suggestion for how to see distances absolutely worked. I was able to relax and focus because it took much of the guesswork out of the situation. Now I can work on more important things like solidifying my leg and giving more generous releases.

Thanks again everybody!
maura likes this.
     

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